There is no denying that cell phones are THE top distraction while driving a vehicle. An estimated 1 in 4 car crashes involve cell phone use and this includes hands-free. However, cell phone crashes remain underreported, but talking to a person who lost a loved one in a fatal “cell-phone involved” car crash is quite sobering.
It could happen to any one of us. We all have a role in ending this distracted driving epidemic. Numerous studies show that “drivers who use a cell phone while driving (even those who go hands-free) have their reaction time and judgment impaired to the same level as a driver who is legally intoxicated.”
No state bans cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phones by novice drivers. Twenty states and D.C. ban cell phone use for school bus drivers.
In October, 2013, Florida enacted a limited ban on text messaging while driving. However, the law poses no limitations on cell phone use.
The law states:
“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data in such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.”
Florida’s texting law is considered a “secondary law.” A police officer cannot simply pull you over for texting while driving. An officer can only pull you over and issue a ticket if the officer has witnessed some other violation, such as running a stop light while texting. If a crash occurs because of a moving violation and texting, the driver will be penalized six points.
Before you travel outside Florida, learn more about other state laws regarding cell phone use and texting bans. Visit the Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA) website and check out the chart which outlines each state’s distracted driving laws. (Keep in mind that some localities have additional regulations.)
Remember, the decisions we make behind the wheel can have lifelong consequences.
Our next blog will discuss new restrictions for commercial drivers and carriers.